Monday, September 10, 2012

Edinburgh: Week 1, Part 1

Well here I am in perpetually-overcast Edinburgh, Scotland!

Three days in and I am finally starting to feel a little less lost. It's a wonderful feeling, though I definitely don't feel at home yet.

I'm not sure what exactly to share with you all (few and far between as you readers are!), but since this blog is also for my own benefit (my memory is faulty at times), I'm going to write as much as I can remember. Feel free to skim!

the flight over.
I wouldn't comment on this but for the fact that the First-Class seats on British Airways are hysterical. They're arranged in modules or pods, and they look like little hamster mazes. Maybe I was overly amused by them (I have always flown Economy, so I think I'm just used to cramped rows of seats), but take a look for yourself here - they're quite odd. During my layover in Heathrow, I met a fellow American traveller named Rachel, who is studying photography at the Glasgow School of Art for a semester. We got terribly lost in the airport terminal together, but it was all good, and it was nice to have somebody to chat with. I also need to make a minor note here that during my flight over, I watched "The Hunger Games," and while I've never read the books before (I've been meaning to!), I have to say that the movie was SO GOOD. Seriously though. I understand the cultural obsession a bit more now.

moving in to my flat.
I have a cute little single in a flat that faces a beautiful green golf course, with brown stone buildings rising up in the distance. It's a lovely view and I'm always tickled to wake up in the morning to find lads in full golfing attire putting around on the green. My single itself is small, but I find it really cozy, and all my clothes fit (Mum, you'd be proud!), so that's good. The very first thing I noticed when I opened the door to my room was a huge brown spider on my floor. It is now dead. The end.

getting around.
Day 1: 
The first day I arrived, I took it upon myself to acclimate to the time difference. Determined not to crash in my bed from jetlag, I set out on a quest to buy a duvet for my bed as well as some groceries. After about two hours of very misguided self-navigation (supplemented by well-intentioned directions that proved to be less than helpful), I found my way to a store called "Argos." This store can only be described as a fast-food restaurant for material, non-edible objects. Except it's also on Ikea-strength steroids. You look for what you want in this huge five-pound catalogue, which has pretty much everything a person could ever need to buy, and then pay at the counter for your order. After about a five minute wait, you pick up all your stuff at a counter where they've packaged it all up for you. It was a bizarre shopping experience, but a humorous one nonetheless. The kicker was having to carry the huge duvet that I bought all the way home, which was about three and a half miles away. I also got lost on the way home. Whoops.

Day 2:
Emily arrived on Sunday and we made our way over to Princes Street to buy SIM cards for our phones. I am proud to say I perfectly remembered how to get there, and we didn't get lost once! We managed to get my phone set up, but only after I accidentally jammed the SIM card into the wrong part of the phone and had to have a really kind (and amused) Scotsman help me take it out with his safety pin. We also raided Pound Stretcher for a disgusting amount of necessities.

That evening I had a relaxing dinner with my flatmates, two of whom are from Scotland (Scorcha and Hebe) and another who's studying abroad like me (Michaela). I think (and hope!) they're all beginning to warm up to me. Maybe? Pretty please?

Last night Emily and I went out for the first time. We hit up a bar called "The Three Sisters," where two somewhat incoherent Irishmen chatted us up, one of whom was quite charming (the other was very, very intoxicated). We ended our night at a second bar, "Frankenstein," where we met two Americans and a Brit, danced the night away, and even did a karaoke rendition of Miley Cyrus' "Party In the USA" (but of course).

Day 3:
Today I didn't wake up until 1 p.m. (I still haven't overcome my jetlag!) I successfully navigated my way to George Square, where I stopped by the Visiting Students Office and managed to adjust my courses to make them somewhat more pertinent to my studies at Mount Holyoke. I plan to go back later this week to try my hand again - I am determined to weasle my way into a third English literature course!

After lunchtime, I met up with Anarkalee (finally!); we shopped around Nicholson and Princes Streets. Emily and I visited Primark for the first time, where I bought a very cheap pair of bright pink rainboots.  I will have to restrain myself from buying a bajillion new pairs of shoes there, although some of their jumpers are worth a second look.

Today was my flatmate Hebe's 19th birthday! I don't know her very well yet, so I wasn't sure whether or not to get her something small. In the end, I bought her a really cute card and snuck it under her door when she wasn't looking. Earlier tonight, Emily, Rachel (her flatmate from England who's a sweetheart) and I went grocery shopping at the Scotmid Co-Op (I freaking love co-ops!), where I bought food for the rest of the week (and subsequently went broke as a result). Looks like everything else I do this week will have to be free. Tomorrow I plan to go to Edinburgh Castle...I'm excited!

things I've noticed.
01. It's a very "couply" city. Everyone is paired up - there are so many couples on the street. Literally every few passersby are holding hands. They're adorable (helped forever by the fact that they're Scottish), but it makes me acutely aware of my singularity in the city, and the fact that my own wonderful partner in crime is 3100 miles and an ocean away.

02. I am perpetually in a liminal sartorial space, suspended between needing my coat because it's freezing and rejecting it because it's stuffy and causing me to sweat. This would be fine but for the fact that these intervals occur within minutes of each other, making me the crazy jacket lady who can't seem to get with the weather patterns.

03. Streets are labeled on the buildings, not with signposts. This took me about twenty minutes into my first-ever stroll around Edinburgh to realize, which was about twenty minutes too late.

04. There is no rhyme or reason to the city's layout. And to think people tease Boston for its cowpaths. The tangled streets are definitely part of Edinburgh's charm, however, and I love, love, love the cobblestone streets!

05. I can't keep bits of English and Scottish accents from creeping into my own speech. It's a huge problem, and I'd hate to offend anyone, but I do it subconsciously. Maybe because I'm a theatre major? Maybe just because those accents drive me wild.

06. The accents here. I freaking love them. I seriously cannot get enough. One of my roommates is from Inverness, and she has this really thick accent. Another roommate is from London, but has a slight Scottish accent herself. I love, love, love listening to them talk. I don't even mind asking people on the streets for directions, because I get to listen to their mesmerizing accents.

07. When you start walking seven miles in three hours, you realize that we don't walk at Mount Holyoke as much as we think we do. At all.

08. We refrigerate much more in the US than they do here in the UK. Things I was surprised to find unrefrigerated: eggs, carrots, strawberries, lettuce. I'm paranoid about all of my produce (especially since the UK doesn't use preservatives), so I'm refrigerating everything anyway.

It's a cold, dreary, wet evening out and I believe I'll be spending it inside, with the company of some fellow Mount Holyoke women.

I know that was a lot, and I apologize if I lost any of you along the way! Thanks for sticking with me.


  1. I love you! It sounds like you are getting quite the full experience and I am eager to hear more :-) xoxoxo

  2. one of my friends is a facebook friend of yours from a class last year. she knows how much I love scotland so she showed your blog to me. aboot yer tendency ta talk in a scottish accent, ye should ken yer nay alone. I am aware that that is a terrible attempt at writing in an accent, (I do hope to improve).
    I'm writing this however to tell you a friend and I have come up with a term for a person (including ourselves) with this affliction, (not that I consider it as such,) we call it klepto-linguist. It is for those people who accidentally adopt the speech patterns of those around them, as well as just any old time which inevitably leads to odd looks from the ones you are with (if they don't know you well) as well as the question "so...where are you from?"

  3. Things and Stuff (if I may):

    01) Yeah - it's hard when the Pond gets in the way;
    02) My (Chicagoan) wife cannot understand how people dress over here. To her, at home, folks dress according to the season, whereas here it's by individual whim, and you'll see all levels of dress in a 5-minute span!
    04) There was once - albeit haphazardly! British town street plans are a thing of accidental and evolutionary beauty, once you start to delve...
    05) It's strongly linked to 'lexical accommodation'. And the fact that it sounds cool(!);
    08) It's fine. Really: it's fine. Have you seen the size of our fridges?

    Keep enjoying stuff!